Eidenbenz’s Ark: Retirada and Holocaust memories in the Pyrénées-Orientales



Kidd W (2012) Eidenbenz’s Ark: Retirada and Holocaust memories in the Pyrénées-Orientales. Modern and Contemporary France, 20 (4), pp. 473-489.

The subject of this article belongs to a chain of events linking the Spanish Republican exodus into France in 1939 and the experience of occupied Europe. The article explores the history and memory of a Red Cross maternity unit for Spanish women interned in the Pyrénées-orientales which subsequently acquired a second, clandestine, vocation as a sanctuary for Jewish refugees from Vichy and Nazi anti-semitism. Of 597 births recorded at Elne, 154 children of the Shoah and their worldwide descendants owe their survival to Elizabeth Eidenbenz, a primary school teacher from Zurich turned aid worker turned midwife, and to her team of local volunteers. The first section of the article re-creates the historical and geographical context from which Elne emerged, and Eidenbenz's role in its developing organisation and ethos. The second section examines the circumstances of its rediscovery since the 1990s and concludes with a critique of its transformation into a contemporary ‘site of memory'.

Modern and Contemporary France: Volume 20, Issue 4

Publication date30/11/2012
Publication date online19/10/2012
PublisherTaylor and Francis

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Dr Bill Kidd

Dr Bill Kidd

Honorary Senior Research Fellow, French